Since its founding in 1885, The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) has come a long way. From its early days, the success of the mission to Singapore, through Methodist schools and churches, has similarly spread through the Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.
A minority faith
As one of the major Protestant denominations in a society where Christians form a minority, the MCS mission as a 21st Century Asian church can best be appreciated by noting its programme of outreach within the community and across the seas. It includes the Educational, Social, Missionary and an ongoing Ecumenical commitment.
The Methodist schools represent the major educational thrust of the MCS. There are 14 primary and secondary schools and a junior college, as well as a School of Music. For more than a century, they have helped to play an important role in the human resource development of Singapore, and their efforts have been acknowledged within and outside the island Republic. Click here for links to the Methodist Schools.
Social and Missionary Outreach
In recent years, the most notable development, after education, has been in social and missionary outreach. This outreach has encompassed the care of the needy, the sick and the suffering not only in Singapore, but also in the region. The Methodist Welfare Services administers 12 service hubs for the elderly, families and children. Many social outreach programmes and institutions have also been established by local Methodist churches.
Alongside the social outreach programmes are initiatives in sending missionaries to work locally and internationally – like the Antioch of old. Many churches send missionaries throughout the world. The Methodist Missions Society coordinates missionary efforts in at least five countries in the region.
The MCS recognises the importance of working with other Christian denominations in as many ways as possible, in strengthening Christian witness in a multi-racial and multi-religious society. It is a member of the National Council of Churches of Singapore. The MCS is linked to the World Methodist Council as well as several other international Methodist bodies. Singapore attracted global attention when the 16th World Methodist Conference was convened at the Westin Stamford from July 24 to 31, 1991. An expression of the MCS’ continued commitment to this vision is the support it gives to Trinity Theological College – a major theological seminary serving the region since 1948.
The Methodist Church holds much in common with other Christians: the primacy of Scripture, the necessity of salvation by grace through faith, and the sovereign care of the Triune God for the created world. Its particular emphases can be understood in reference to John Wesley, an 18th Century priest and reformer in the Church of England who became known as the father of Methodism. He developed a distinctive “method” for personal and social holiness. Click here for links to important doctrinal statements.
Reflecting Singapore’s multi-ethnic groups, the MCS comprises the Chinese Annual Conference, Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference and Trinity Annual Conference. It is headed by a Bishop, elected at its General Conference. Each of the Annual Conferences is headed by a President.
Methodist churches, numbering 46 local churches with a membership of more than 41,000, represent one of the largest Protestant denominations and cater to all the languages used in the Republic: Chinese dialects such as Hokkien, Foochow, Hakka, Hinghwa,Teochew and Cantonese, as well as Bahasa, Mandarin, Tamil and English. Click here for a chart of the MCS’ structure.
The MCS derives its beginnings from a missionary initiative of the South India Conference led by Dr James Thoburn in 1885. Its early foundations were laid by the Rev William F Oldham, who established the Methodist Mission and its first English language boys’ school in 1886. Together with two girls’ schools begun in 1887 and 1888, the Mission developed ministries in nearly all the local vernaculars, a medical clinic, and school hostels for foreign boys and homeless girls.
Thereafter, the Mission rapidly spread to the main towns of the Malayan Peninsula and Sarawak, where churches and the schools that were twinned with them provided a base for missionary outreach in English and the vernacular languages. Like most other missions, the Methodist Mission in Singapore and Malaya expanded and matured – first becoming a Conference, then Conferences spanning South-east Asia, and the establishment of the South-east Asian Central Conference in 1950. The Malaysian and Singapore components became autonomous in 1968, and thus became an Asian church with a Bishop who was elected from amongst its ministers. In 1976, the process was repeated when it was restructured into The Methodist Church in Singapore and The Methodist Church in Malaysia.